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Sculptor Vijay Khatu has reserved a niche in his Lalbaug workshed for a special kind of Ganpati idol this year. Unlike the assembly-line models made of plaster of paris, this one is not hollow. It is filled with clay dough. Dressed in warm, hand-painted colours, the beautiful small Ganpati wears an unusually big smile as compared to its white-faced counterparts.  

“Eco-friendly idols are in great demand, only we have so few artisans to chisel them,’’ says Khatu. “In two years, I hope to train many craftsmen to meet the demand.’’
 
Fuelling this hearty change, a special awareness drive is back. Launched this week, The Times Green Ganesha 2010 is a 40-day campaign across Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, and now Pune, the seat of Maharashtrian culture and hometown of Lokmanya Tilak, who pioneered the sarvajanik Ganeshotsav.
 
The Times of India and Tata Housing have undertaken this initiative in association with the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB). The partnership is designed to reward the effort made by socially conscious individuals and mandals towards a healthy celebration. The Times of India is promoting this as Ab ki baar, green tyauhar.
 
The Times Green Ganesha drive is now in its third year. Roping in likeminded individuals, housing societies as well as mandals, it has three categories of participation—the Home Ganesh Utsav, Society/Complex Ganesh Utsav and Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav. It will have a multi-pronged focus on the usage of clay or paper idols, eco-friendly decoration as well as celebration, not to mention an environmentally healthy procession and immersion.
 
“We have launched the programme a little early this year to highlight the government’s efforts to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi in an eco-friendly manner,’’ says environment secretary Valsa Nair Singh. “Over the past couple of years, we have seen a significant difference, and this year we aim to make it bigger and better. This awareness can only be self-regulatory. We hope that more people will be influenced to make their celebrations eco-friendly.’’
 
“This programme is in line with our increased commitment to environmental stewardship and conservation,’’ says Brotin Banerjee, MD and CEO, Tata Housing Development Co Ltd. Apart from several NGOs such as the Aniruddha Bapu Trust, Enviro Vigil and Upasana Kendra, various schools and colleges, corporates, even the Thane Municipal Corporation, will participate in this drive.
 
A special website, www.timesgreenganesha.com, will help share information from people who are working in this area. Through the weeks, a number of activities have been planned including workshops, road shows, mall functions, street plays and a clean-up drive. The events will culminate in an award ceremony. Those who want to participate in the drive should type <TGG> <name location> and SMS it to 58888 or log on www.timesgreenganesha.com. You can also call on 022-4074 7481/82/83/84 or email at timesgreenganesha@gmail.com.
 
* Sculptor Vijay Khatu (in pic) and his family members are working overtime in their Lalbaug unit to meet the demand for eco-friendly idols made of clay. Left: A clay idol takes two days to prepare but emerges as striking (left) as the one made of plaster of paris

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